Does Exxon control the Mayflower oil spill coverage?

It is during crises, like Exxon Mobil‘s Mayflower oil spill disaster, that press freedom matters most and we can really judge whether the media are doing their job. As critics have pointed out from the beginning, many media outlets have effectively let Exxon dictate their coverage. As Arkansas Blog now reports, Little Rock TV stations have gone a step further in their submission to the corporate giant: Under pressure from Exxon, Arkansas ABC, NBC, and Fox affiliates have declined to air a paid advertisement (view on youtube) critical of Exxon. Exxon – get this – has threatened legal action against the stations. Exxon executives, who should probably be on trial for criminal negligence, are dictating what can and cannot be said in public about them in Arkansas. That is the extent of press freedom and freedom of speech in this state.

“Amidst reports of media intimidation at the site of the Mayflower, Arkansas tar sands oil spill, ExxonMobil has now taken to bullying local Little Rock television stations into canceling the airing of a satirical but cutting advertisement critical of their business practices… The move by Exxon marks the latest in a series of reported strong-arm tactics undertaken by Exxon to censor reporting in the days following the Mayflower tar sands oil spill.” (Statement from the ad organizers)

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The news media and the Mayflower EXXON oil spill disaster

Former Little Rock news Anchor Ron Gardner has posted a passionate take-down (via arkansastvnewswatch) of the news media’s, especially the Little Rock TV news programs’ treatment of the oil spill disaster in Mayflower.

“What the local broadcasters have done, for the most part, is use statements from the EXXON spokesperson and in one case, an attempt to determine whether Sen. Jason Rapert and some others are totally in the pockets of big oil companies, simply let Rapert totally off the hook…
Jesus Christ. Everybody involved in putting that sort of shit on the air should be fired…
It’s shameful, disgusting and depressing and bodes ill for the future of our country when the local media does such a piss poor job of educating the people about issues, who their politicians are, what is happening behind the closed doors in the capital building, etc. etc. etc. …”

The Arkansas-Democrat Gazette, to its credit, in its April, 3 edition published a well-written column , (paywall) about he pipeline burst and its implications for the Keystone XL pipeline: “Oil spill highlights pipeline perils“, by Sam Lane, the director of ArkansasFracking.org.

Meanwhile, Huffington Post reports that a twitter account mocking Exxon and its handling of the oil spill disaster was suspended by the corporation (twitter corp., that is). I guess that’s how social media are supposed to be furthering democracy and empowerment and citizen journalism and saving the world – by caving in to any bully who comes along, whether China or Exxon. Thanks, Twitter, for making that clear.

Check out the coverage at Arkansas Blog.